More people surviving cancer as number of diagnoses increases

There were an estimated 167,700 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2015

More people surviving cancer as number of diagnoses increases

A computerised image shows a tumour and its subsequent treatment by radiotherapy. Picture by: Johnny Green/PA Archive/PA Images

Cancer rates have fallen slightly in recent years, and more people are surviving the illness.

However, the number of cancers detected has risen as our population ages.

The annual report from the National Cancer Registry (NCRI) shows there were an estimated 167,700 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2015.

Around 33,000 invasive cancers were diagnosed annually during 2015-2017, with the risk of developing cancer higher for men than for women.

Image: NCRI 

Total numbers of cancers diagnosed annually continue to increase, but incidence rates - per 100,000 people - have 'stabilised or even fallen slightly' in recent years.

While cancer remains the second most common cause of death in Ireland - with around 8,800 people dying annually - overall cancer mortality rates have fallen for more than two decades

The five-year cancer survival rate has also increased to 61% for those diagnosed in recent years.

Commenting on the report, Professor Kerri Clough-Gorr - Director of the NCRI - explained: "This year’s report again highlights a recent stabilisation or even decline in overall cancer risk among the Irish population, but some individual cancers (for example melanoma and female lung cancer) continue to show worrying increases in incidence and mortality rates.

"As the population grows and ages, and treatment and survival improve, the population of cancer survivors - now estimated to be almost 170,000 people - continues to grow. Planning for the long-term support and follow-up needs of cancer survivors is an important health priority."

Health Minister Simon Harris said he was "delighted to see a reduction in the incidence of cancer".

He added: "It is also most encouraging to see that survival rates are increasing for many cancers."

Donal Buggy from the Irish Cancer Society, meanwhile, says we need huge investment in services if we're to cope with the challenge of an ageing population.

"We really have to figure out and invest now in new doctors, new nurses, new treatment pathways to ensure our cancer patients of the future will get as good, if not better, treatment in 10 or 20 years time," he observed.